Graveyard

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author AP date 10/11/18 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Despite their reputation as a leading actor in the vintage rock revival scene, Graveyard is a mixed bag when it comes to live performances. But the disappointment of the band’s two most recent concerts in Denmark — at the 2014 and 2018 editions of Copenhell — seems to have had little effect on their popularity here; the quartet’s first headlining show in the country since 2013 has been sold out weeks in advance. Indeed, the air seems to be thick with anticipation, with most people undoubtedly aware that Graveyard’s club shows tend to be on a different level than their festival appearances.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Graveyard

Faced with an audience ready and willing to dispense all the bent up energy of a working week, the Gothenburg-based outfit lives up to my expectations, rendering their miserable showing last summer a distant memory. The opening track, “Walk On”, presents us with a band hellbent on correcting past mistakes and justifying the acclaim that was bestowed upon “Peace” — the fifth studio album from the band — when it was released earlier this year. At Copenhell last summer, guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson and lead guitarist Jonatan Larocca-Ramm were still finding their footing after a brief hiatus (2016-2017) and the subsequent introduction of two new members, but the four musicians now seem to have locked into that same symbiosis that originally made Graveyard stand out from the legions of other bands plying the ‘70s hard rock trade. Indeed, both new songs like the aforementioned “Walk On” and older tracks like “The Suits, the Law & the Uniform” (off 2012’s “Lights Out”) are injected with freshness in the shape of jam segments and tiny solo bits woven into the riffs that are just not there on record. The songs sound familiar, yet also pack enough surprises to make even the most hardened Graveyard fan feel like they’re watching the band live for the very first time.

But while the band’s experimenting with their own material is a treat in its own right, it only makes up a fraction of why I’ve been raving left and right about the best Graveyard concert on Danish soil to date. The brunt of it comes down to their showmanship, which makes you wonder whether the four musicians were replaced by impersonators for the Copenhell show. Nilsson in particular lets himself be egged on by the thunderous response from the audience to each passing song, breaking such a sweat from his rocking out that by the time “Uncomfortably Numb” (off 2011’s “Hisingen Blues”) slows things down for a moment, he looks straight out of a shower. The look is perfectly in sync with his powerful, rugged singing and the scratchy, trebly tone of his guitar, the sound of which seems to lag and quiver ever so slightly every now and then — either due to a pedal effect or a slightly loose cable connection. It’s a very retro and a very honest look that embodies the spirit of this band and lends an authenticity to songs like “Buying Truth (Tack & Förlåt)”, instead of everything feeling so choreographed and predictable. There is real energy here, which probably also explains the moshpit operating near the front of the venue for much of the set — a feature I had yet to experience at a Graveyard concert, but one which nonetheless fits the intensity of tracks like “Shunken” well.

Nilsson is admittedly in a league of his own as a showman, but the rest of the band does not fall that far behind. Each one of the three has his own moments to shine: bassist Truls Mörck, when he takes over lead vocals for the blues-rocking “Bird of Paradise”; lead guitarist Jonathan Larocca-Ramm, when he lets rip for the classic “Hisingen Blues” or busts out a longingly wailing solo in “Hard Times Lovin’”; and drummer Oskar Bergenheim, when he tests the structural integrity of his kit and looks close to falling off his chair during bangers like “It Ain’t Over Yet”. While all of this is happening on stage, the atmosphere amongst the audience is growing more festive by the minute, beer taps sending endless torrents of the golden elixir into plastic cups, while moshers and crowd-surfers stumble over each other to be the rowdiest person in the venue. Only the encore manages to put a slight damper on the proceedings (for myself at least), offering up two brooding ballads in “Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)” and “The Siren”, that unwittingly drain the intensity from the proceedings somewhat. Up until this point, the concert has been Graveyard’s most energetic and rock’n’roll-oriented yet, and as such it might have been wiser to complete the impression with more of the same — or, at least, with two of the most intense ballads the band has written to date: “No Good, Mr. Holden” and “Slow Motion Countdown”. This is only a footnote to a gig that not only meets, but exceeds my expectations for how fantastic a live act Graveyard can be on their day.

9

Setlist:

  • 01. Walk On
  • 02. Please Don’t
  • 03. The Suits, the Law & the Uniform
  • 04. The Fox
  • 05. Goliath
  • 06. Uncomfortably Numb
  • 07. Buying Truth (Tack & Förlåt)
  • 08. Cold Love
  • 09. Bird of Paradise
  • 10. Shunken
  • 11. Hard Times Lovin’
  • 12. It Ain’t Over Yet
  • 13. Hisingen Blues

— Encore —

  • 14. Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)
  • 15. Ain’t Fit to Live Here
  • 16. The Siren

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